First of all, let me get to this out of the way, I am an Asian-Australian. So, my appearance blends with the rest of the population of Mongolia, but I am a true blue Aussie as they come. I would say, I was perceived to be an anomaly by most Mongolians because I had this heavy Australian accent and laid-back attitude. Majority of them, they would be confused whether if I am actually one of them or not.
I always wanted to be a journalist when I was young. The idea of a heroic, iron-clad inquisitor who seeks nothing seemed romantic to me. However, all of that shattered, when my super strict and pragmatic Asian parents decided to tell me that writing your idiosyncratic musings in a world-renowned newspaper such as the New York Times will not get you anywhere. (Well, they’re wrong because I work in the media industry back in Australia now.)
I almost gave up on my dream —this lingering romanticised image of heroic journalist kept pulsating at the back of my mind, not until I found Projects Abroad and their journalism projects. I decided to re-live my childhood dream as a journalist and work to the rhythms of the newsroom.
Now, why Mongolia? That was the question that left everyone’s lips. “Isn’t that like a barren wasteland where the tribes are nomadic, and nothing really happens?”
“That’s a bit random—Mongolia.” A friend said bemusedly, “Why don’t you do your placement in a country more exciting such as Japan, Korea or China is more interesting too?”
Due to these reactions from my friends, my response was to make up this elaborate joke— which consisted of odd countries such as Bolivia, Algeria, Romania, Togo into the mix with Mongolia. I put them in a random virtue generator and voila; Mongolia happen to one of them, and I’m going out to the country on a whim here.
In all seriousness, Mongolia has a certain mystique to the rest of the world—as a journalist, curiosity is a prerequisite. Although information is abundant nowadays due the globalisation of the internet, nothing beat experiencing what a country at its core.
Although the vast majority of my friends assume to be a wasteland and has circa 2009 technology, the country undoubtedly sustained its traditional nomadic culture and customs. It is an endearing country in its own way and it rather funny how the rest of the world think it is underdeveloped. It has an undeniable charm transcends either through their language, the people, their everyday life and their architecture and every other aspect of their culture.
It was love at first sight when I landed at Chinggis Khaan airport. The pungent smell of sheep wool lingered, unruly tattered walls, and shiny wooden floorboards– all contributed to the charming aura of Mongolia. As I exited the oddly charming airport, I greeted with Zula who is my volunteer supervisor who picked me up and drove me to my host family; Erka and Sadruul. The first week in Ulaanbaatar, I realised it is a city of spontaneity and surprises. If you are a methodical and orderly person, you might get frustrated of the city as it is always throwing unpredictable things in your way. In one week, I have witnessed a heard of domesticated sheep crossing the road, three Mongolians pushing their car, a random birthday cake next bunch of bottles in the supermarket and a baby throwing ice cream out the window which I happen to miss.
Aside from the randomness of the place, one of the highlights during the week is witness a political event in which the new president of Mongolia, Battulga Khaltmaa who was honoured and welcomed by the commander in chief of the Armed Forces. It was a monumental event to stand by and watch as I never seen a lot of these kinds of events in Australia. As I am a sucker for the United Nations, there was a slight glimmer in my eye when I saw the peacekeepers were marching through the Genghis Khan Square. It was rather a delightful event to go as it attracted all types of foreigners and locals in one area.
Overall, my first week of Mongolia was memorable as I leap from moment to moment with an open mind.
Originally posted on this link: http://www.montsame.mn/en/read/10950